April 2009


him: “Wait…how many of you are here?”

me: “There are 12 of us here at the SAA annual meeting. 9 undergrads, 2 recent graduates, and Professor Dodd.”

him: “You’re crazy…why would you invite your undergrads to a conference? Conferences are our chance to get away from them!”

Dinner with Professor Dodd at the 2009 SAA annual meeting in Atlanta

Dinner with Professor Dodd at the 2009 SAA annual meeting in Atlanta

My colleaugue’s response kind of took me off guard. Is one of the reasons why students rarely attend conferences because the professors get so sick of them that they need a vacation? If that is the case, then Lynn Dodd and USC are a very different breed.  Professor Dodd encourages her undergraduate students to perform mentored research projects, write journal articles AND attend and present papers at international conferences. I feel so lucky to be in a program where I am not treated as an annoyance. Instead, I am treated as a colleague.

–Ashley Sands

Greetings from Atlanta!

Undergrad students trying to decide which session to attend at the SAAs

Undergrad students trying to decide which session to attend at the SAAs

It’s 11:40 now…except that it’s actually 2:40…and we are finally turning in.  Archaeologists were still partying it up 33 floors below when we left the room at the Marriott and performed the obligatory peering over the railing for thrills.  The conference has been amazing so far–papers upon papers upon posters talking about everything archaeological under the sun, for example Iceland sheep, Maya paleoclimatology, and 3D laser scanning.  Every two to three hours the rooms/halls have a different session, and there’s at least 16 of them so the speakers keep coming.  And in the basement an entire exhbition hall filled with (zomg!) BOOKS.  University of Arizona Press is there, as well as Oxford, Cambridge, Left Coast, and mostly every publishing group that would ever be assigned for an archaeology class.  The fun part is mingling with all the other name-tagged professionals and guessing at who’s a famous archaeologist excavating in a place you really want to go to.

–“Archaeologists are notable alcoholics.”  quote heard at the moment

Our Friday culminated in an Ashley Appreciation Party at the Sidebar in downtown Atlanta.  Ashley was–totally deservedly–credited with such achievements as being the nicest person ever, being a genius, being super organized, making people less scared of Professor Dodd (Professor Dodd said this), always being there, and having sexy boobs.  We all love her and will miss her next year; it’s a good thing this conference has fostered bonding so we can collectively attempt to keep the schedule from going to a shambles next year.  Anyway, there’s a UCLA party tomorrow night (the name is not verboten when in connection with archaeology) and a full day of more awesome papers before that.  Night y’all!

–Tiffany Tsai

Congrats to all of the USC Archaeology folks who participated in the symposium. Seriously–you were awesome! Take a look at the write-up in theUSC College newsletter

All participants at the 2009 symposium awards dinner

All participants at the 2009 symposium awards dinner

And an amazing quote: “For the 11th year, undergrads of Bruce Zuckerman and Lynn Swartz Dodd have taken top honors in the research symposium. Swartz Dodd and Zuckerman of religion have acted as sponsors for students in multiple fields, mostly associated with the USC Archaeology Research Center. Combined, they had 17 student participants.”

Now that the symposium is out of the way (well…for another 352 days…) a bunch of us are heading off to Atlanta, Georgia for the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. Lynn Dodd will be taking 9 undergrads and 2 recent alumni (some of us just can’t get enough of the arc lab). We are all excited to meet some of the experts that we read about in textbooks, listen to interesting papers, and scout out potential grad-school advisers. Well…and we plan to bond…

Oh, did I forget to mention that the students in Dodd’s class today prepared a Neolithic meal? Yep. It’s true. Trust me, its not easy to find wheat grains, acorn squash, and the “articulated joints of large bones of lamb or mutton”–even in LA!

–Ashley Sands

It is the mark of an interesting major that its explanation frequently requires disabusing people of notions acquired through big-budget, star powered, pyrotechnically floozy movies.  It’s fun to say you’re in archaeology not just because of the “Oh cool” that follows (Accounting majors probably get the same comment, but how many times do people actually mean it?) but also because, every once in a while, that response is followed by another one like “Wow, Indiana Jones…” or “Yeah Lara Croft kicks ass!”  And if you’re really lucky, though this has never happened to me, you get asked what your favorite dinosaur is–although it will probably be couched in language more academically involved, the educated lay public being at least somewhat so.  N.B. I leave children out of these sarcasms until they are of an age to be independently moviegoing.

So archaeology students are pretty spoiled by the countless entertainment opportunities they have in everyday discourse with relatives, employers, high school friends, and new acquaintances.  The question is, can we keep laughing in the style to which we have become accustomed once we snatch up our diplomas and hotfoot it out of town?

An article linked to Cleopatra a few days ago suggests an affirmative answer, thanks to what some of the readers posted on USA Today with regard to REAL sites and REAL archaeologists using LEGIT excavation methods.

So, are Liz Taylor and Richard Burtron going to be on hand to sign autographs ?

Ok, but apart from the roads, bridges, aquaducts, feats of engineering, fast food stands, paid sex houses, sewers, medicine, ect… What have the Romans ever done for us?

[in response to that] Everything we hold dear today, we owe to the great Romans………..from roads, to bridges, to aquaducts, to engineering, to fast food stands, to paid sex houses…………..etc etc etc

And, my favorite:

The Mummy Returns

–Tiffany Tsai

“Have you recovered yet?” my archaeology professor sang out as he entered the classroom and beamed a camelid smile at the three or four students who had meandered in on time, then pivoted to a halt opposite my desk.  Given previous lecture emphases on drugged-up flying shamans, my mind scrambled to make a connection between research >>> symposium >>> recovery and figured that he was referring to a hangover, the typical by-product of undergraduate celebratory rituals.  I was flattered to be thought such a representative specimen of my age population.  “It was cold yesterday, was it not?”  Oh, so he meant the weather.  Oh well.

It was indeed a spectacle to see undergraduates of all shapes and sizes stretching into one common, obliquely Mannerist position yesterday as they tried to throw their arms about renegade posters flapping down the Trousdale walkway.  The 11th Annual Undergraduate Symposium had fallen on a very windy Wednesday; it was the first time that I realized duct tape had a match, and saw it met.

My partner Lexy and I did our best to entertain judges and by-passers braving the weather by regaling them with stories of graffiti attacks on sacred rocks and showing them little bare dots where our magic laser had cut through the paint.  As the wind picked up, we became increasingly giddy in our spiels, and Lexy mastered her delivery of “but they’re going to let us shoot lasers at Grandma’s face!” by judging time t-minus-10.  They seemed to find our project interesting enough, or the lone judge, anyway, whom we didn’t realize was a judge until she had moved half a table away.  I hope our totally irrelevant talk of feminist archaeology inspired her in some way.

Lexy and Tiffany proudly show their research at the 2009 symposium

Lexy and Tiffany proudly show their research at the 2009 symposium

After the poster exhibition some of us headed back to ARC to work on our “real” research, and then there was a lecture on Ur and the symposium banquet at 6.  Taking over the better part of two tables, Professor Dodd’s mentees easily constituted the largest band of primates at the Davidson.  We were well represented in the awards ceremony, too, with Jenny Crawford winning first place and Jacob Bongers getting an honorable mention!  And throughout the night weird peals of giggling put us in the mind of the fact that although we may not have executed a clean sweep of division AH, SS1, SS2, whatever, the ARC lab knows how to rack up all the points in the fun department.

–Tiffany Tsai